21 October 2013

Local "Vigilanties" Taking on Boko Haram in Nigeria

In a true "local" COIN response, a self-organized militia has run Boko Haram out of their own hometown.

Boko Haram has been pushed out of Maiduguri largely because of the efforts of a network of youthful informer-vigilantes fed up with the routine violence and ideology of the insurgents they grew up with.

“I’m looking at these people: they collect your money, they kill you — Muslims, Christians,” said the network’s founder, Baba Lawal Ja’faar, a car and sheep salesman by trade. “The Boko Haram are saying, ‘Don’t go to the school; don’t go to the hospital.’ It’s all rubbish.”

Governor Shettima has recruited the vigilantes for “training” and is paying them $100 a month. In the sandy Fezzan neighborhood of low cinder block houses, where the informer group was nurtured over the past two years, the walls are pockmarked with bullet holes from shootouts with the Islamists, a visible sign of the motivations for fighting the insurgents.

That's an excellent example of what can happen when the local population decides to stop cowering in fear and give a shit about their own communities (something conspicuously absent almost anywhere in Afghanistan).

“People will run away from me because I am catching the Boko Haram,” the elder Mr. Ja’faar, 32, said, smiling during a nighttime interview indoors.

Good on'ya mate - taking on the Jihadis.

But he seemed unafraid of the danger, lifting his bright yellow polo shirt to reveal a thin leather strip around his waist, which bore an amulet. He explained that he carried “plenty of magic,” 30 charms, to protect himself.

Oh right. This is Africa. Oh well. Hope one of those things actually deflects a bullet for you.

By: Brant

1 comment:

Brian said...

Usually these things devolve into "my gang can beat up your gang". I note that Boko Haram was getting the upper hand because of the temporary advantage it's gained from unemployed former Qaddafi regime mercenaries and access to the large quantities of weapons spreading from Libyan arsenals across northern Africa, not because of any extraterritorial sanctuary, support from "Jihadi Central" or claim to greater legitimacy to rule that corner of the country.

I further note that the vigilantes don't have any greater allegiance or adherence to the government besides getting paid by the local governor; they want local conditions to improve and are willing to take steps to do just that. There are certainly examples of that in Afghanistan, though to be fair they are mostly outside areas dominated by the Pashtuns.